Yates' Virgin air miles leak claim rubbished by MoS

  • Former counter-terrorism chief claims family's flight details were leaked to MoS
  • MoS stands by story and said leaks came from senior police source

The Mail on Sunday has denied claims by former Met assistant commissioner John Yates that his personal data was leaked to the paper from a source within Virgin Atlantic.

Last week Press Gazette revealed how the airline was under pressure after emails appeared to show the flight details of more than 60 celebrities were leaked to paparazzi agency Big Pictures by a Virgin insider.

Yates has now come forward claiming he was the victim of leaks from within the airline.

He told The Guardian that details about his flights and air miles referenced in a September 2010 MoS article were "highly likely" to have involved leaks from within the airline.

The story alleged that Yates – who was then head of the Met's counter-terrorism unit - had used air miles clocked up during official police business to cut the cost of travel for family members, including his teenage son and daughter, on up to 10 occasions.

He also told The Guardian – which noted the allegations "have not been independently verified'– that only a handful of people would have known about the trips taken by his children and wife.

But the MoS insisted that no part of the story was based on information from Virgin Atlantic and that in fact came from police sources.

Yates was quoted saying: 'This story was published at an extremely sensitive time in both my personal and professional life. As it transpires, the allegations contained in the article were without foundation.

"After an inquiry I was cleared of any wrongdoing and the policy on using air miles for private use amended to permit such use. However, as the then UK lead for counter-terrorism I was very concerned that sensitive personal details about myself and my family had found their way into the media."

He added: "The article in question caused great distress to my family and was also very damaging to my professional reputation. I intend to instruct lawyers in order to investigate matters further."

'The Mail on Sunday stands by its story'

In response to his claims a spokesman for the MoS said: 'The Mail on Sunday stands by its story which revealed how John Yates, then Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, used business air miles for his family, contrary to the Metropolitan Police's regulations.

'This was confirmed at the time by the Metropolitan Police's press spokesman. No part of the story published by The Mail on Sunday was based on information from Virgin Atlantic. It came from Police sources and was both accurate and in the public interest."

The original MoS story said listed the details of nine flights caught by Yates between February 2009 and February 2010 which were freely available on the Met's website.

While Yates claimed in his statement that 'sensitive personal details'about him and his family were published, at no point in the article did the MoS name either his children or any of their flight details.

The claims – attributed to 'senior Scotland Yard source'– were confirmed by both a Met spokesman, who claimed Yates was 'unaware'the practice was not in line with Met policy at the time, and a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Authority, who said it was 'confident that this was an oversight".

Following the MoS revelations the Met said the story was a 'timely reminder of a policy that may not be obvious and we will be taking steps to reinforce it to all our staff".

Press Gazette understands the Mail on Sunday has no intention of removing the story from its website.

Virgin had not responded at the time of publication but told The Guardian it would not be commenting on the allegation made by Yates, who resigned from the force last year amid mounting pressure over his handling of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

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